Jeff Koons’ art has previously focused on giant metal balloon dogs. Now the artist has created a line of £300 replica handbags which borrow the work of the Old Masters.
Jeff Koons, who made his name making giant neon balloon dogs out of steel and selling them for over $50 million, has started making replica handbags. The artist is to put famous works by Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Fragonard, Rubens and Titian on Louis Vuitton replica handbags, shawls, purses, clutch bags, backpacks and keyholders, all with the artist’s name right in front of every garment. It’s intended to increase appreciation for old works, bringing them in front of audiences who might not necessarily be familiar with work like Reubens’ The Tiger Hunt (or, indeed, with Koons).
The collaboration has been met with disgust on Louis Vuitton’s social-media pages, and praise by Koons fans, but there will be one key parameter to judge the masses’ appreciation: counterfeit sales. If Koons-Vuitton knockoffs and reproductions are quick to appear on the black market, Canal Street, Hong Kong’s Ladies Market and on Leicester Square, then Koons has won. Like HBO’s boss Jeff Bewkes, who was quoted saying how proud he was that Game of Thrones became the most illegally downloaded show in TV history, Koons should follow suit.
In fact, it already feels like Van Gogh’s/Koons’ “A Wheatfield With Cypresses (1889)” bag has been available to buy on Leicester Square for the last 50 years. The Mona Lisa bag will probably be counterfeited the most. Duplicating Da Vinci’s work is already a grand tradition and a few more fakes won’t make a difference. Will Koons ever break or melt an original Fragonard painting, or a Van Gogh into a truly original bag or scarf? At the moment he’s just selling expensive prints. Psychologically you think you’re buying an original Koons by buying a real cheap Louis Vuitton. But you’re not. An “original” Louis Vuitton gets you a reproduced Rubens print. Is the art legacy as strong as the fashion legacy?
I spoke to numerous thinkfluencers to find out what they think. One, the actress and writer Julia “Jelly” Morrison from NY, gave her initial reaction to the clutch:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is some weird hybrid that a Senegalese man made in his kiosk outside the Metropolitan Museum,” she said. “Good artists imitate and great artists steal, so who did Koons steal this Mona Lisa bag idea from? Da Vinci is dead. The Mona Lisa is like Enola Gay – you have to see it in person to really understand its magnitude. A bag or a magnet won’t cut it. Like Keith Haring and Basquiat – they wanted to bring art to the masses. I want to see something original. Is that the best Koons can come up with?”
British chef Tess Ward said she “feels like art and fashion are inextricably married, but this is more like a tourist souvenir than wearable art”.
Model and ClaudRobe founder Claudia Gould happens to adore the collection, saying, “The aesthetic of this collab is a total masterpiece, utilising the classical sublime of great masters and embellishing the glory of such iconic visuals with the universally recognised LV outlet uk print, in poster paint pastel hues of red, blue and teal. There is something so unexpectedly nail-on-the-head about this clash, you either get it or you don’t.”
London-based She Zine editor Diana Chire had a different reaction. She said, “I don’t think the replica bags are terrible looking. But the problem is what the bags represent – that art is only for the very rich. An exclusive, not inclusive, club. I can’t imagine any artist I know going out splurging £300 on a fake bag. Jeff is totally taking the piss.”
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander modelled the bags in the desert with Koons, in an unusual pose for the semi-reclusive “Balloon Dog” artist. Koons is rarely seen in anything other than a plain suit, typically leaving the colours to his art. This new fashion agenda made him a different man, and artist, in many respects.